Sunday, December 18, 2005

godFather, godScience, GodMother & Morality

[Submitted to the God or Not Carnival; topic: morality]

Webster's so stuffy. “Morality,” he drones, “is conformity to the rules of right conduct.” Zzzzzzzzz.

Morality’s more interesting than that. It's like a second skin humans have to knit. Why? Because we’re the only species born without automatic operating instructions, i.e., “instincts.”* And unless we build our own (operating instructions, rules), we’re in Big Trouble.

Not only do we have to create this second skin, everybody hasta agree it’s the right skin. Then we have to coax and cajole everybody to swear on a stack of – whatever – to wear the skin. And, unless all three things happen, we end up with nothing recognizably human.

Now, when it comes to writing the six trillion rules a human group needs to survive, a picture is worth a thousand words. Our morality-skin, in other words, is best created with a picture, or role model in mind. And this role model had best be human. Pointing kids to brown bears, buffalo, books by Kant, or test tubes as models for behavior is not the best way to go. How does a human interact with the environment, both human and non-human? You’d better believe kids are watching older adults like hawks, to see.

Although a picture is worth a thousand words, the wrong picture is worth a thousand deaths. For the past six thousand years, people across the planet have been tuning into the wrong picture. It’s a male picture, and, more specifically, a father-god picture. The problem is, in nature, social fathers rarely exist. Biological fathers, yeah. But not guys who stick around after sperm-egg intro and connect themselves to baby. In 99.9% of animal species, it’s Mom who hangs around. Same’s true for several human groups, like the Mosuo of China, and some scholars now think the Mosuo were the norm for humans throughout most of human existence.

Now, everyone knows healthy human mothers adore their offspring. Kids can be born fluorescent green, covered with feathers, and screeching like long nails across a blackboard, and Mom thinks she’s died and gone to heaven. In general, on the other hand, fathers tend to love more on condition – that junior makes the team, makes the honor roll, makes the Fortune 500, or at least leaves home by age 20.

Humans treat others the way their deity treats them. If a dude sees a Big Daddy in the sky, he’ll treat others the way Big Daddy treats him: conditional on whether those Others do what the dude wants them to. “Kill your son Isaac to show you love me.” “Go wipe out that nation that doesn’t love me, to prove you do (love me).”

But if a dude sees a Big Mama in the sky (or in a pool of water, or a mountain), he’ll treat others the way Big Mama treats him: with concern. Doesn’t matter who or what the Others are (fluorescent green, covered with feathers, etc.), this dude’s gonna think they’re awesome. Furthermore, he’s gonna see these Others as his equals – just as Big Mama sees her own brood of kids. Bingo -- human war, poverty, and stuck-up people out the window.

Actually, Big Mama is not “out there” somewhere, like Big Daddy. She’s not in, She is the earth. She, the earth, and everything on it are one big ball of wax. So who’s not gonna tiptoe around the earth reverently? Bingo -- environmental problems out the window.

Of course a third alternative is Science as deity, which I suspect is the religion of atheists, although the fact that atheists worship GodScience is such a secret that even atheists don’t know about it. How does GodScience see us poor little naked humans, born stripped of operating instructions? As 32c worth of chemicals, of course. You’re on your own, bud; it’s just you and the elements; no help from GodScience. (He Himself is only 33c worth of chemicals; given his godhood, he’s one up on us.)

So what’s GodScience say about how to treat people and things? Like 32c worth of chemicals, of course. The earth and everything on it, is on its own. Our job is simply to study, to probe, and to know everything. We have no obligation to others or the biosphere. Sin? Sin is emotion, that evil entity that obscures “knowing.” The result: (1) Knowing and pursuit of knowing first; humans and the biosphere a distant third. (2) Neuroses, psychoses and anomie blooming like mad flower gardens across the planet.


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*Or at least not very many. Not enough to count for anything.
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Thnx to 2dotz, zoli, and sitoh for the pix.

18 comments:

Mike said...

So huge chunks of human behaviour are dictated by simplistic, naive Freudian psychology?

Athana said...

I don't know about Freudian, Mike, but simplicity is often the more difficult goal to reach. And the most effective solution once we get there.

Anne Johnson said...

Swell post.

Morgaine said...

I heart you, Athana.

Mike said...

Except it is far too easy to confuse "broad paintbrush" with an elegant, parsimonious simplicity. That's what I think you are doing in this post.

The trouble begins right after the picture of the bear.

"The problem is, in nature, social fathers rarely exist.... and some scholars now think the Mosuo were the norm for humans throughout most of human existence."

This is an incredibly loaded statement. Unless you back this statement up with some citations, you're not getting passed the level of rhetoric, propaganda, or to put it more bluntly, bullshit.

(I understand that blogs are a fairly informal genre of writing; I forgo citations a great deal myself in my blog writing. When I do so, however, I make it clear that I in fact do have something to cite if it is so requested. I also keep un-citated empirical statements such as yours to an absolute minimum)

(Reading my response, I'm sounding more harsh than I mean to. Sorry, but I'm increasingly frustrated with that stupid little phrase "scholars think" and I just happen to be venting here)

I'm sure you are aware that there is a sizable number of mainstream (Jew, Christian, Muslim) theists who do not fit your portrayal of them. There are many theists - many who believe in an explicity gendered, Father-God - that do not demand that all others act a certain way.

In other words, the gender of one's God is not the ultimate determining factor in moral behaviour. Your post is arguing it is, and that is why this post is "simple" in a bad way.

I Am said...

I will agree with you that if there were a deity, I would want it to be female. I'll even go so far as to say that if I were going to raise my children in a religion, it would be a goddess religion. I think they would end up better people than if they were raised in one of the religions of the book. However, we can't turn our backs on the real world just because we have a story that's nicer. If we're willing to go so far as to abandon reality in a quest for happiness and peace in society, I think drugging the water is a more direct and effective approach.

Athana said...

Mike,

I just guess I thought it was common knowledge that in most animal species the impregnating male fails to play any recognizable role in the care and upbringing of the offspring. Here, though, are two citations:

“The two roles are quite clearly defined by nature: The female nurtures the offspring. The male provides for the female during the nurturing period.”
http://www.probertencyclopaedia.com/cgi-bin/res.pl?keyword=breed&offset=0

“How did love begin? Probably with motherhood. All across the animal kingdom, mothers nurture their offspring, making sure babies get off to a good start. An orangutan mom cares for her baby for four years. Then the toddler is ready for 'independence day.'

“In mammals and possibly other animals a hormone called oxytocin, released in the mother's brain during labor, is a spark bonding mother to child. Oxytocin blunts the physical pain of childbirth and induces sensations of pleasure. Without it a ewe, for example, can't recognize her own lamb.”
http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1590/is_n9_v54/ai_20297414

But, you are right about this: I am indeed arguing that “the gender of one's God is the ultimate determining factor in moral behaviour.”

Athana said...

Hey, I Am! Happy to hear it. About your comparative assessment, that is, of the female versus the male model of deity.

The thing is, though, are you certain you really know “reality”? Ever consider that perhaps you aren’t as capable as some at tuning in to, say, extra-perceptual reality? I know I’m not as capable as some people I know. Just a thought.

Also, gee. I’d rather go with a nice story, myself, than with drugs in the water. I think the story’d cover more ground, morality-wise etc.

Morgaine said...

Wonderful responses, Athana. The inevitable anger always fascinates me. Mike doesn't even know why he sounds so angry - he's a nice, thoughtful guy, but Herstory contradicts his entire world view.

I adore I Am, but I have to say, while I know he was Pagan briefly, I know he never felt a real connection to our Mother. Once you've felt it, it is as real as rocks and trees. And I've used psychic phenomena consistently in my life, often to make a living, and I know it works. I know that consciousness is non-local, as is memory. See Ode magazine, Life Goes On for more on this. Reality is larger than atheism allows, and once you've decided matter is all there is, you turn off your receptors. Unless something drastic happens, you won't allow yourself to open to it. That makes me very sad, because this isn't a fairy tale, it's quantum mechanics and consciousness.

Mike said...

So: a person's deity's gender is the ultimate determining factor in their moral behaviour.

This is a strong and inflexible claim; do you really wish to claim that every single goddess worshipper has identical moral traits, and every single god worshipper has another set of moral traits?

As for the nature and tone of my disagreement with you, I've heard similar retorts coming from six day creationists, and it's no more impressive here.

A careful reading of my posts will reveal that I have not even argued against your conclusions, so how can you be so sure I am angered or threatened by them? All I have taken issue with is the quality and quantity of your evidence. The patterns of your thought, not the objects of your thought.

I Am said...

Athana said: The thing is, though, are you certain you really know “reality”? Ever consider that perhaps you aren’t as capable as some at tuning in to, say, extra-perceptual reality?

I know reality. I don't know all of reality, because no one does. If anyone did, we could just give up on science right now because it would be finished with its work. As for tuning in to "extra-perceptual reality," that's definitionally impossible, isn't it? If it's extra-perceptual, it can't be perceived. If it can't be perceived, it might as well not be real, even if it's there, because we'll never know it. If, however, elements of this reality can be perceived with meditation, tarot cards or the right herbs, then it can be measured, studied and understood. Pagan scientists of the world: bring it on.

Athana said: Also, gee. I’d rather go with a nice story, myself, than with drugs in the water. I think the story’d cover more ground, morality-wise etc.

There's something to be said for soma. It saves all the time of convincing people of the story. Besides, you can have the story and the drugs. Ford's in his Flivver, and all is right with the world... as long as you don't mind being asleep. The only difference between the drugs and the story is that between a dreamless sleep and one with fantastic visions.

Morgaine said: I adore I Am, but I have to say, while I know he was Pagan briefly, I know he never felt a real connection to our Mother.

Thank you. It's nice to be adored. I like you, too.

I was Wiccan for over three years. I don't know if I would call that "briefly." I assure you, I felt a real connection. It was far more real to me than Yahweh ever had been.

Mortaine said: Reality is larger than atheism allows, and once you've decided matter is all there is, you turn off your receptors. Unless something drastic happens, you won't allow yourself to open to it. That makes me very sad, because this isn't a fairy tale, it's quantum mechanics and consciousness.

Atheism allows reality. All of it. However, it disallows anecdotal evidence. If you have more than that, please demonstrate. If you can help some scientists document magic, it will mean a Nobel prize for them, so I'm sure they'd love to work with you.

Athana said...

Mike, you say that “… there is a sizable number of mainstream (Jew, Christian, Muslim) theists who do not fit [my] portrayal of them. There are many theists - many who believe in an explicity gendered, Father-God - that do not demand that all others act a certain way. In other words, the gender of one's God is not the ultimate determining factor in moral behaviour.”

I agree that there are dramatic differences among theists. I have numerous friends who are theists and who are wonderful people in many, many ways. Most of them work very hard to be as ecumenical as possible (I think I’ve used that word properly). However, I think when you look at humanity as a whole, and over the longhaul, I have no doubt that much of our suffering is the result of the turn we took away from mother deity to father deity.

You say you take issue with the “quantity of my evidence” and the “patterns of my thoughts.” Hopefully you’ll be able to read some of the sources Morgaine’s suggested for more evidence. I’ve given you sources explaining the lack of social fatherhood in the animal kingdom. As for the quality of my thinking, what kind of quality thinking is it that says a Father God gave birth to humanity, when every two-year-old knows it’s mommys not daddys who give birth? The entire set of premises underlying Father deity is as phony as a two-dollar bill!

I must say, though, that I feel you’ve been a perfect gentleman on this site, that I appreciate that, and that I enjoy conversing with you very much.

Athana said...

Morgaine, yes, I read the “Life Goes On” article. I wish everyone could. One interesting thing about it is that it describes a Goddess afterlife of unconditional love and divine knowledge -- not a god afterlife of torture chamber/hell, and/or sterile heaven with nothing to do but sit on clouds all day:

“Just about every description of a near-death experience is this beautiful. People feel connected and supported. They grasp how the universe works. They experience unconditional love. They feel free of the pressing concerns of earthly existence.”

I think I have a small touch of psychic ability, but not as much as you. And I’ve seen it work in friends, with no “rational” explanation for it, that I can see at any rate.

Athana said...

I Am: You’re right; I meant to say extra-sensual reality – beyond the senses.

I hafta tell you that for years I was a "nothing." I mean I rejected Christianity, but I couldn’t quite be an atheist, either, because that felt a lot like Christianity. Atheists seemed “bitten by the bug of certainty” as a friend of mine would put it.

What I felt was, “Gee, I don’t know what reality is.” I was working on a Ph.D. in anthropology/prehistory during part of that time. About extra-sensual reality I had the same opinion: “It could be real, but maybe it isn’t. I don’t know.” Part of my Ph.D. work was on trance behavior and possession trance in indigenous cultures around the world. Now there’s a place where science and what I’m calling extra-sensory perception overlap! You don’t find all anthropologists – scientists -- studying trance behavior, quite so certain about what “reality” is. There's just too much science cannot explain about indigenous trance.

I'm not sure all of “reality” is measurable.

Here's an interesting question: do you think we know everything now that we’ll know 10,000 years from now?

Morgaine said...

MIke - a statement doesn't have to apply to every single member of a group for it to be generally true. Lighten up. These are blog posts, not scientific papers. She's trying to make a point.

I Am - I'd love to work with a scientist to define magick. Unfortunately, they don't have the equipment yet. I have no doubt they will at some point, because the energies I work with are real. Of course, there are plenty of kirlian photographs, films of UFO's and thousands of hours of accurate predictions by Edgar Cayce. How copious does the evidence have to be? At some point, cynicism makes you part of the conspiracy to control information, rather than an objective judge of reality.

Guys, I hate to say this but you're acting like guys. You may not be aware that you are doing it. You are nit-picking certain words or details instead of addressing the spirit of what is being said. This is Pagan space - we non-linear here. We'll make a good argument, but don't pick on the way an idea is stated when you know very well what is meant by it. We can go 'round and 'round in trying to define extra-sensory perception and whether that's a misnomer, but that's not the point. We see this behavior from men a lot on feminist sites - it's a way to distract from the subject of the argument. The subject is that patriarchal religions are, without exception, violent. Matriarchal cultures are generally peaceful. If you'd like a list, we'll provide one. Start with the Mosuo and the Haudenosaunee.

And, about anecdotal evidence - why isn't that allowed? My experience counts for something and so do my perceptions.

First, when a person is confronted with something unfamiliar the brain searches for a familiar label to pin on it. A monster is more likely to look like a shadow than a shadow is a monster. People simply aren't that creative.

Second, by taking that position, you are standing with the guys that laughed at Pasteur for thinking invisible things were making people sick. Just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it isn't there. Radiation is undetectable without specific equipment, but it will still kill you.

Not everyone defines 'reality' the same way. I'm Native American - whatever I perceive at a given moment is reality. My dreams, visions, precognition are as valid as my waking experiences. I walk between worlds - you're only living in one world, and it's bigger than you think it is.

I Am - maybe sometime we'll talk more about your experience with Paganism. It's not something you can turn on and off, and I'm curious as to how you came to your present position. I don't want to pry, but I would like to understand.

Mike said...

MIke - a statement doesn't have to apply to every single member of a group for it to be generally true. Lighten up.

Athana is saying belief X produces trait Y. Your comment here - which is an admission that not all traditional theists have trait Y - shows that belief X is not the sole factor in the appearance of trait Y. Individuals with belief X are, in fact, entirely capable of having trait non-Y. Once you admit this, you have to start brainstorming for other factors. You might find there are one or two more. You might find there are a dozen more. Or you might be able to keep counting the factors that produce trait Y until you are blue in the face and not run out. At that point, you can't go around making the original claim and not be anything other than a bullshit artist.

Let's be clear here. I'm not interested in attacking your metaphysical ideas. It's not your ontology or the broader aspects of your epistemology I'm disputing. Athana is making empirical claims about human behaviour patterns. When you are making empirical claims, you can't simply say "what I perceive at a given moment is reality." If you insist that such claims have empirical basis, then feel free to walk in front of a truck on the highway. Call it an experiment: could you come away without a scratch, if you just wished hard enough?

The subject is that patriarchal religions are, without exception, violent. Matriarchal cultures are generally peaceful. If you'd like a list, we'll provide one. Start with the Mosuo and the Haudenosaunee.

That list wouldn't mean anything unless it came with a fairly extensive discussion of a dozen or so surrounding factors. Does Saharasia provide such a discussion? It actually sounds like a fascinating book.

Athana said...

Mike, it’s hard to educate someone in a few blog comments. By “matriarchal” we don’t mean that women were superior to men, or that women lorded it over men. That’s the mistake that’s been made in the past – thinking that women would do to men wat men have done to women. In a matriarchy, there’s no hierarchy, there’s equality. Matriarchies have thus existed without being recognized as such.

*Saharasia* has your dozen factors and more. Why not use the link at the right side of my blog and go to Amazon to read the reviews?

Morgaine said...

Mike - we're talking about human behavior, not mathematics. The world isn't going to fit your nice little equation, and neither is language. That's the point. Life is more complex than a simple equation, and you're still picking nits, instead of responding to the spirit of the post.